So while I congratulate Burt Rutan and Paul Allen on their achievement I'm also remembering the advice of Frederic Bastiat to economists: always look for the hidden. What is important about Spaceship One is not that a private organization has done it once, but that now that it has been done once free markets will continue to make it better, faster, cheaper and someone, one amongst our fellow humans, will work out what to actually do with it, in a manner that none of us today has any inkling of. That's why free markets are important, that's why the first private space trip is important and that's why Paul Allen has done a great deal more than fund a rich man's toy.
The craft's sponsor, Paul Allen (who co-founded Microsoft), could have spent as much, or more, on a luxury yacht. Furthermore, there is cause for modest optimism about the changes that the flight of SpaceShipOne signals in the broader space business, as a new breed of entrepreneur creates a thoroughly modern industry.
I think that's right. And as Andrew Case notes: "the giggle factor is pretty much dead as far as investors are concerned."
Here's more from Newsweek, and here's a Leonard David article on space tourism. Back when I was doing legislative work for the National Space Society over ten years ago, we were pushing this -- and the "giggle factor" was pretty significant then. Not anymore.
UPDATE: Worstall has more thoughts on his blog, here.